Lucifer and Storytelling – Ghost’s “Prequelle” (Review)

When the news of the lawsuit against Tobias Forge, the Ghost front man, hit the fans, it was highly speculated that it meant the end for one of the most interesting acts in metal in the last decade. The anonymity they had worked to keep and the mystery of what Ghost really was seemed shattered in that instant. However, from the ashes, rose a new leader…

With Prequelle, the story goes on. And it works so well precisely because it’s a story. From the myriad of bands out there that brandish Satanic imagery to shock and compete for ‘metal cred’, Ghost took the time to introduce us to their lore and characters. While we never knew much about the Papas, their father and head of the Satanic Vatican Papa Nil or the matriarch Imperator, they feel organic and multidimensional. They are imbued with the spookiness one assumes would come with such theatrics but more importantly, they have such incredible humor. They’re dynamic, they’re campy, they’re having fun with their characters.

Prequelle album art

Prior to launching Prequelle, Ghost released three video chapters in which they introduce to us to the new leader of the enigmatic Clergy and revealed the fate of the former Papas. These chapters stand as undeniable proof of their humor – Papa Nil wants to prove his prowess by bursting into a saxophone solo and the three Papas were playing Uno in a dim lit room with their cards backwards just to name a few.

All eyes are now on the new leader, Cardinal Copia, and with Prequelle we’re witnessing a new era as well. The era of the plague.

Ashes! Ashes! We All Fall Down

The album kicks off with Ashes, an announcement of the aforementioned plague – it is essentially the spooky nursery rhyme of Ring Around the Rosie, known as a tune describing the Black Plague of the 14th century.

And then, it came.

Rats, the first single off the album, and the bearers of death, shows us what Cardinal Copia is all about. Those familiar with the video know how enthusiastic a dancer Copia is – this is reinforcing the allegorical image of the Dance of Death, stemming from the Late Middle Ages. And you can’t help but dance and sing along as everything crumbles around you.
Next track, Faith, hits you over the head, just in case you thought for a minute Copia was gonna be soft on you. Blazing, thrash-y guitars and demonic backing vocals go after the themes of Christianity as we’ve grown to know, recognize and love from Ghost over the years.

See the Light feels like a personal track that makes you wonder how much of Tobias is there under the mask. The strong declaration of “every day that you feed me with hate I grow stronger” makes for a powerful chorus and quite an emotional moment for the Cardinal so early in the relationship.

Halfway through with Miasma, an instrumental track to help you catch your breath and think on your sins for a solid 5 minutes. What is interesting here is that it doesn’t seem out of place but captures the feel of the new era perfectly and, through the synths and guitars, we’re finally treated to Papa Nil’s sax solo, which is nothing short of fantastic for his age.
Dance Macabre and second single off the album sounds like a melodic, lost KISS track, though more courteous than something like Lick It Up. Though I’m sure the outcome is just the same.

Ghost performing at Revention Music Center in Houston, photo by Derek Rathbun

With Pro Memoria, those familiar with the chapters will recall that it was teased when the three former Papas were undergoing some “cosmetic work” to be displayed on tour for the VIP ticket holders. Copia reminds you that Lucifer is still the mighty overseer and that the plague is still going on strong, albeit on the wings of soft violins and angelic voices.
Witch Image feels a little weak and it kind of gets lost on the way, especially when all the other prior tracks are so strong instrumentally. While Copia’s lyrics are still poignant and a little reminiscent of Stand by Him on Opus Eponymous, the instrumentals just don’t stand out.

Now, so far, we’ve been going along with our imminent demise and Helvetesfonster makes it all the more sweet. The beautiful eerie instrumental is a sendoff to the afterlife anyone would like to get – shifting melodies and intensities with each instruments taking a turn to express the strange calmness of such a process.
And Life Eternal, the moment to let go indeed. The angelic choir is back to guide you to the afterlife as the Cardinal leads you by the hand and promises you forever. And you wholeheartedly believe him.

In the end, Prequelle is such a great addition to the Ghost lore because of the commitment to the story. As the story evolves and branches out, so does the music. That’s what is so interesting about Ghost, you cannot just slap a label and be done with it. When there are so many twists and turns in the narrative you can’t call linearity.
And with that being said, we should remember that the Cardinal is still being tested. He’s not yet even close to becoming the fourth Papa. Will he ever? What will be left after the plague?

Album highlights – See the Light, Dance Macabre

Prequelle (c) 2018 Loma Vista Recordings, Distributed by Concord Music Group, Inc.

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